Court rules that Otto Sam’s transfer to NEMO was illegal

otto sam

The transfer of career educator Otto Sam from his post as headmaster of the South Rivers Methodist School to the National Emergency Management Organisation (NEMO) in 2010 was irrational and illegal, a High Court judge has ruled.

Justice Gertel Thom handed down the decision on Friday.

Sam, an outspoken public servant, was transferred from the school to NEMO after he complained that Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves broke Ministry of Education protocol during a visit to the school, by not first reporting to the head teacher.

Gonsalves is constituency representative for North Central Windward, where the school is located.

Sam was suspended from the public service in August 2012, in the wake of a letter he wrote, which was published in two local newspapers under the caption “NEMO — an interesting organisation”.

In the letter, Sam said, among other things, NEMO’s staff had not met since September 2011, although the 2012 hurricane season began on June 1.

He was fired from the Public Service in May 2013, after the finding of a tribunal, and is appealing that decision.

Lawyer Jomo Thomas, whose chambers represented Sam in the case, told I-Witness News on Sunday that the judge also ruled that Sam is entitled to prescribed costs and had three months in which to file for damages.

“I think it is a good thing for law-making in St. Vincent, because executives of whichever kind would know that people have recourse to the law court to have the court pronounce on whether a given set of actions were proper,” said Thomas, who was last year appointed as a senator for the ruling Unity Labour Party.

Thomas said that Sam felt he was put to waste at NEMO, and took the matter to court.

Meanwhile, in a separate interview on Sunday, Sam told I-Witness News that the ruling “shows that God is greater than the system, God is greater than the Chief Personnel Officer, he is greater than the Attorney General and the whole team.

“… the Government keeps doing these things as if it is legal, and people keep accepting it.

“It is a victory for God and it is a victory for citizens whose rights have been violated in this manner, and they can see that there is a way, it is not right and there is a way that redress can be gotten,” Sam said.

Sam said that he will be seeking damages.

He further restated that he will publish a book about his experience since the transfer in 2010.

“All these matters will be addressed by the a publication in the fullness of time, Sam said.

Sam was a public servant for 33 years when he was dismissed.

He said that while his career has been disrupted and fractured, he is still willing to work for the State.